Along with the assortment of Christmas sweets that begin to fill the shelves of supermarkets weeks before, the Christmas lights are the prelude to Christmas. So it was that on November 26 the most emblematic streets and buildings of Madrid were decked with lights to welcome long-awaited festive season. This year, fashion designers such as Devota & Lomba, Juan Duyos and Andrés Sardá have also participated in the lighting. Along with the traditional lights, as a novelty, don’t miss the great Christmas ball, between Calle Alcalá and Gran Via, and the huge Menina in Plaza de Colón. They are so close to the school that you have no excuse not to see them!
And if the lights are a preview, December 22 represents the official beginning of Christmas. That day the children of the San Ildefonso school sing the prizes of the Christmas Lottery while the majority of Spanish people are glued to the radio or television waiting for the most longed-for prize, ‘El Gordo’ (The Big One). Buying a lottery ticket is a social ritual that almost no one skips; with friends, family or colleagues, the important thing is to take part. If you don't want to miss out on your ticket, you can buy it at Doña Manolita (c / del Carmen, 22), the most popular lottery vendor in the country, or also participate with us at school (stop by the cafeteria and ask Puri ).
In the form of nougats, mantecados, polvorones, marzipan figures … there are sweets for all tastes. Among them, nougat (a sweet dough in the form of a tablet) is the king; new and original flavours are added each year to the perennial classics flavours of almond (hard and soft), coconut, toasted egg yolk or Suchard chocolate. For famous and 100% artisan examples from Madrid, try those of Casa Mira (founded in 1942), Antigua Pastelería del Pozo (1830) or La Santiguesa bakery. Give them a try!
The Campofrío advert
For the last few years it has been the most anticipated Christmastime advert. This year, if possible, with an even more meaningful message. If you haven't seen it yet, click on the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mibEFh7AHo. To not miss anything, you can watch it with subtitles and you will surely recognize some popular characters and places in Madrid. A more than appropriate ode to life in these times.
Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day lunch
We are still wondering how and with how many we will be able to meet, in person or via Zoom, as we have been getting used to. Be that as it may, we will continue to celebrate the eve of, and the day of the birth of Jesus at Christmas Eve dinner on the 24th, and at Christmas lunch on the 25th, dressed to the nines and preparing the best food. In addition to the traditional favourites such as stuffed cold cuts, turkey, shellfish and prawns, there are also local traditional dishes such as Madrid consommé, baked sea bream or red cabbage. And to toast, nothing better than a good cava, our national "champagne".
The Nativity Scene
From those put together by the little ones in their homes to those built by true professionals in churches or public or private organizations, these representations of the birth of Jesus made with figurines are another of the most popular traditions. It is worth seeing the one at the Madrid City Council, in Cibeles, the Municipal Nativity Scene in the Plaza de la Villa or the one at the Madrid History Museum. And if you want to make up your own nativity scene, buy figurines at the stalls of one of the Madrid’s Christmas markets – the most famous, that of the Plaza Mayor.
December 28 is the day in which we Spaniards play jokes, the so-called ‘pranks’ or inocentadas. They are played on friends, co-workers, relatives, but they also tend to creep into the media. It is our private ‘april fool's day’, because we always have to find a place for humour and to laugh at ourselves.
The twelve grapes in the Puerta del Sol
After dinner on the 31st, once again, we Spaniards will say goodbye to the year by eating twelve grapes whilst watching the twelve chimes of midnight from the Puerta del Sol clock on television. With or without company, excitement is guaranteed: if you manage eat the twelve grapes before the bells are over (and without choking!) you will have guaranteed luck for the new year. There is a secret to it: don't chew each grape too much …
The Three Wise Men
Between the evening of January 5th and the morning of January 6th, children become the main protagonists of these festivities, as Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar, the three Wise Men from the East, arrive in the city loaded with toys. And the Kings have already officially communicated that this year, despite the pandemic, there will be a parade (their popular parade of floats) and they will visit all the houses. And with how well all the children have behaved this 2020, surely few children will find caramel coal next to their shoes when they wake up.
The ‘Roscón de Reyes’
And as if we had not had enough sweets, there is still the final thrust: the Roscón de Reyes. It is a sweet, donut-shaped bun, made with orange blossom water and decorated with candied fruit. They can also be filled with cream, truffle, or chocolate. The inside of the donut, in addition, usually hides two surprises: a small gift, usually a figurine, and a bean that, if you find it in your slice, means that you must pay for the roscón the following year. If you want to try one of the best roscones de Reyes in Madrid, go to the Horno de San Onofre (c / San Onofre, 3) and reserve yours.
Good resolutions for the new year
The beginning of a new year is always loaded with good intentions: taking better care of yourself, doing sports … and, of course, signing up for a language course. If the latter is one of your resolutions, at International House we are waiting for you with many interesting offers. Happy 2021!